School bus driver's fine a 'joke,' victim's mother says

The driver of a Calgary school bus that plowed into a parked gravel truck and then smashed into a light pole killing a young girl has been fined $2,300.

The driver of a Calgary school bus that plowed into a parked gravel truck and then smashed into a light pole, killing a young girl, has been fined $2,300.

Louise Rogers, 40, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of careless driving in the crash on Crowchild Trail in October 2007.

She was driving 11 children from two charter schools in a short, yellow school bus when it drifted into the shoulder of the right-hand lane and struck a parked gravel truck that had broken down.

The impact sheared off one side of the bus and sent it hurtling into a light standard. Kathelynn Occena, 9, was killed in the crash. Another girl suffered serious injuries.

On Tuesday, Rogers was fined $2,000, plus a $300 victim fine surcharge, and had her driver's licence suspended for 90 days. She was also sentenced to one year's probation and ordered to undergo grief counselling.

The sentence was part of a joint submission by Crown and defence lawyers.

Provincial court Judge Brian Stevenson said the sentence does not reflect the loss of a child, but pointed out the $2,000 fine was the maximum penalty allowed under Alberta's Traffic Safety Act. He also noted that Rogers had no criminal record or previous driving infractions.

Genevieve Occena, Kathelynn's mother, called the sentence "a joke."

"It is unfair. I lost a daughter and all she got is a $2,000 fine," she said outside the courtroom.

Rogers originally faced three offences, including failing to safely remain in the centre of the lane and unsafely crossing a solid line. In March, Calgary police said their investigation showed criminal charges were not warranted in the case.

"If there had been drugs involved in it, then maybe it would have been dangerous driving," said Allan Low, Rogers's lawyer. "If she had been talking on the cellphone, as I think some people had suggested at the time of the accident ... then maybe it would have been dangerous driving but none of those things were there.

"The Supreme Court of Canada in recent months has reaffirmed its previous position that a brief period of inattention is not dangerous driving," Low said.

During Tuesday's proceedings, Rogers expressed her sorrow in a low, quivering voice. She kept her head down for most of the sentencing.